News Analysis

Conflict mineral activism has received widespread coverage in the last five years and has seen a rise in coverage in this last year.  Many different types of news sources cover conflict minerals activism including big name news papers such as the New York Times as well as small blogs and local papers.  In order to do a comprehensive news analysis of conflict minerals activism, we attempted to survey as many source types as possible.  From this comprehensive survey, we noticed very distinctive trends and key players that shaped the way in which news sources covered conflict mineral activism.


1885 – King Leopold establishes the Congo Free State
1996 –First Congo War
1998Second Congo War
2007Enough Project Founded
May 2010 – First CFCI (Conflict Free Campus Initiative) Resolution Passed at Stanford
July 21, 2010Dodd Frank Act Signed into Law
April 17, 2011 – Proposed date of SEC implementation of Sec. 1502
February 2011 – Apple publishes “2011 Supplier Responsibility Report”
May 25, 2011 OECD (Organization for Cooperation and Development) publishes “Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas”
August 7, 2011 – David Aronson publishes controversial Op-Ed opposing Conflict Mineral Activism that sparks an ongoing debate
October 21, 2011Blood in the Mobile Premiers in the UK
December 21, 2011 – Second Proposed date of SEC implementation of Sec. 1502 – DELAY – will be addressed again between January-June 2012
January 27, 2012 – EU pledges commitment to OECD
February 3, 2012 Nokia Publishes Policy on Conflict Minerals

News Sources and Synthesis:                              

We broke our sources into three different sections: big name papers, smaller papers and blogs, and local papers.  Below is the synthesis of our findings, we have included all of the articles we surveyed in order to provide a detailed account of what our sources were.

As we were analyzing the news sources surveyed, we noticed a few very distinct trends in our findings.  There was a very clear cut “Pro” conflict mineral activism argument that emerged in many of the sources.  The “Pro” sources argued that conflict mineral activism was effective and necessary in making active change on the ground in the Congo.  Many of the articles quote expert researchers and use statistics to back up their claims.  They include images with their articles that often feature very harsh mining conditions and/or women and children.  In Faith Karimi’s article, “U.S. law targets ‘conflict minerals’ in Congo,” published in CNN World she quotes Frederick Golooba-Mutebi, a senior research fellow at Makerere University in neighboring Uganda, who regularly visits Congo:

“This is a step in the right direction. It protects the interests of the Congolese … a lot of minerals are going to be certified, and the law will do away with fly-by-night businesses and introduce bona fide companies that don’t infringe on the rights of the the people.”


On the other hand, some of the sources had arguments that were very “Against” conflict mineral activism, most often claiming that this type of activism had unintended consequences on the ground and was not effective in making change for the Congolese people.  Most of the articles condemning conflict mineral activism focused on the lack of Congolese voice found in many of the campaigns.  Some of the articles listed out the unintended consequences of such activism and used quotes from local Congolese civil society groups to back up their claims.  Very little actual imagery was used in these articles but a strong image of the Congolese citizen was painted as well as a very ignorant image of the United States Congress and activist NGOs such as the Enough Project.  In his widely read New York Times Op-Ed, “How Congress Devastated the Congo,” David Aronson states:

“But once the advocacy groups succeeded in framing the debate as a contest between themselves and greedy corporate interests, no one bothered to solicit the opinion of local Congolese.  As the leader of a civil-society group, Eric Kajemba, asked me, more in confusion than in anger, ‘If the advocacy groups aren’t speaking for the people of eastern Congo, whom are they speaking for?'”


The remainder of the articles took a “Middle” ground argument.  The “Middle” sources more often than not supported conflict mineral activism, but called attention to some of the possible negative consequences.  These articles prompted a more critical eye from the readers, while still advocating for change.  Many of the articles stated that a more comprehensive approach to peacemaking in the Congo needs to be implemented in addition to this focus on conflict minerals.  Some of the articles used David Aronson’s controversial Op-Ed piece as a jumping stone to tease through the complexity of conflict minerals activism.  Almost no actual imagery was used in the articles with the exception of maps of the Congo.  In his blog post, “Thoughts About Conflict Minerals,” Jason Stearns states:

“Efforts to render minerals supply chains more accountable have indeed had unintended adverse effects. As I have written here before, commanders such as Bosco Ntaganda have benefited from smuggling and thousands of people may have been put out of jobs. There is no doubt that the implementation of the law has been sorely wanting, and that there need to be more focus on governance and political developments in general and not just conflict minerals. Nonetheless, I still believe that
the Dodd-Frank bill – in Section 1502 on the Congo – should be

Because these three fairly distinct categories emerged in the articles we surveyed, we structured our analysis to look at the amount of “Pro,” “Middle,” and “Against” articles in each type of news medium.

Main Players:

On the “Pro” side of the debate, the Enough Project and Global Witness and their supporters (including John Prendergast, the founder of the Enough Project) were the authors of many of the articles that I read that supported current conflict mineral activism.  The articles that were “Against” conflict mineral activism were written by a variety of sources.  Most notably was David Aronson, the author of the August 2011 Op-Ed piece called “How Congress Devastated the Congo.”  Kambale Musavuli, the spokesperson for the organization Friends of the Congo also wrote a few articles that were not in support of conflict mineral activism.  The articles that took a “Middle” ground stance were written by a variety of sources.  The lead voice of the “Middle” is Jason Stearns, a political scientist who specializes in the Congo and recently published the book Dancing in the Glory of Monsters: The Collapse of Congo and the Great War of Africa.



News Sources:

Big Name Papers:

PRO Conflict Mineral Activism and Legislation:

1. Los Angeles Times – “Cracking Down On ‘Conflict Minerals’” – 12/15/09
2. Huffington Post – “Conflict Minerals: A Cover For US Allies and Western Mining Interests?”– 12/14/09
3. CNN – “U.S. law targets ‘conflict minerals’ in Congo” –  7/24/10
4. New York Times Op-Eds – “A Conflict Over Conflict Minerals” – 8/15/11
5. Brookings Institute Press – “Transparency, Conflict Minerals and Natural Resources: Debating Sections 1502 and 1504 of the Dodd-Frank Act” – 12/20/11
6. New York Times – “Nokia Publishes Policy on Conflict Minerals” – 2/3/12
7. The Christian Science Monitor – “Lifting Africa from a mineral ‘curse’ : The US and Europe are moving towards rules that would require their oil and mining industries to reveal all payments to foreign governments. Resource-rich but poor Africa will benefit from such transparency.” – 2/21/12
8. The Huffington Post – “Fashioning a Trend for Human Rights in Congo” – 3/2/12

MIDDLE GROUND on Conflict Mineral Activism and Legislation:

1. Huffington Post – “Conflict Minerals: A Cover For US Allies and Western Mining Interests?”– 12/14/09

AGAINST Conflict Mineral Activism and Legislation:

1. New York Times  Op-Ed– “How Congress Devastated the Congo” – 8/7/11
2. Huffington Post – “Conflict Minerals in the Congo: Let’s Be Frank About Dodd-Frank” – 8/22/11

Smaller Papers and Blogs: 

PRO Conflict Mineral Activism and Legislation:

  1. InterPress (U.S.) – DR-CONGO: Firms Fuelling ‘Conflict Minerals’ Violence, Report Says -7/21/09
    1. Women’s E-News – “Congo Rapes Spotlight New ‘Conflict Minerals’ Law” – 9/9/2010

MIDDLE GROUND on Conflict Mineral Activism and Legislation:

1. Jason Stearns – Congo Siasa blog  – “Thoughts about conflict minerals” – 8/10/11
2.  Reuters (India) – “U.S. SEC wrestling with conflict minerals disclosure” – 10/16/11
3. “The Elm Consulting Group International” blog by various authors –“Top Legal Experts Weigh on SEC Conflict Minerals Rulemaking Delay” 1/9/12
4.  “Corporate Social Responsibility and the Law” Blog by Sarah Altschuller –“The SEC’s Delayed Rule-Making and Implications for Corporate Conflict Minerals Reports” – 1/16/12

AGAINST Conflict Mineral Activism and Legislation: 

  1. Reuters (U.S.) – “Rights group wants Congo ‘conflict mineral’ tracing” – 4/1/09
  2. Reuters (U.K.) – “Uphill task to solve Congo’s conflict minerals” – 7/30/10

Local Papers:

PRO Conflict Mineral Activism and Legislation:

1. News From Africa – “DRC: Lobby Group Enlists Support of Electronic Companies to End Conflict” – 12/3/10
2. African Arguments – “Due Diligence Can Help Efforts to End Resource-Fuelled Conflict” – 2/15/12

MIDDLE GROUND on Conflict Mineral Activism and Legislation:

1. AllAfrica, DRC – “Law to Curb Conflict Minerals Under Attack By the Chamber of Commerce” – 10/18/11
2. Africa News, Kenya –“Phone Firm Takes Tough Stance On ‘Conflict Minerals’”– 2/21/12

AGAINST Conflict Mineral Activism and Legislation: 

1.  AllAfrica, South Africa – “Africa: Minerals Not the Only Cause of Conflict in the Great Lakes Region” – 2/23/12